A spitting image

specializations in archerfish eyes for vision at the interface between air and water

Shelby Temple*, Nathan S. Hart, N. Justin Marshall, Shaun P. Collin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

66 Citations (Scopus)


Archerfish are famous for spitting jets of water to capture terrestrial insects, a task that not only requires oral dexterity, but also the ability to detect small camouflaged prey against a visually complex background of overhanging foliage. Because detection of olfactory, auditory and tactile cues is diminished at air-water interfaces, archerfish must depend almost entirely on visual cues to mediate their sensory interactions with the aerial world. During spitting, their eyes remain below the water's surface and must adapt to the optical demands of both aquatic and aerial fields of view. These challenges suggest that archerfish eyes may be specially adapted to life at the interface between air and water. Using microspectrophotometry to characterize the spectral absorbance of photoreceptors, we find that archerfish have differentially tuned their rods and cones across their retina, correlated with spectral differences in aquatic and aerial fields of view. Spatial resolving power also differs for aquatic and aerial fields of view with maximum visual resolution (6.9 cycles per degree) aligned with their preferred spitting angle. These measurements provide insight into the functional significance of intraretinal variability in archerfish and infer intraretinal variability may be expected among surface fishes or vertebrates where different fields of view vary markedly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2607-2615
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1694
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes

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